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Ethnic Liaison

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Ethnic Liaison Committee
The BNP set up the Ethnic Liaison Committee in February 2001. It has three members - Colin Smith, Lee Barnes and Lawrence Rustem.

BNP leader Nick Griffin appointed Rustem chairman. It has created some controversy within the Party as he is half-Turkish.

The BNP constitution quite clearly states that membership is confined only to those who can prove that they are of "British or kindred European ethnic origin".

Panorama wanted to interview Rustem for the programme and a meeting was arranged. However, within hours of the call Rustem called back to say that he would not be available until next March 2002.

Rustem also failed to appear at the annual "Red, White and Blue" event. Nick Griffin said that Rustem was working at the time and, therefore, not available.

Griffin said, "...we didn't push him to come because it's about the one place where we don't need an ethnic liaison officer. So where we're talking with members of ethnic minorities then that's his place."

In two days of speeches at the event, there was no mention made of the setting up of this new committee.

A mosque on a British street - multicultural society today
The BNP says the committee was set up to accommodate a growing number of ethnic supporters

video Colin Smith talks about the appeal of the Ethnic Liaison Committee
Panorama wanted to find out how many members of black and Asian groups are in touch with the Ethnic Liaison Committee.

Reporter Jane Corbin spoke to Colin Smith as Lawrence Rustem was no longer available to speak to us.


She asked him about the numbers who had been in touch since the formation of the Committee. Smith seemed uncertain. He said, "Dozens, dozens, it's not many at this stage."

Panorama asked for cases to find out more about the kind of discussions that were taking place. Smith said that he had spoken to three people and met two of them.

He would not put Panorama in touch with them on the grounds that the conversations that he had with them had been "confidential".

Lawrence Rustem was appointed chairman of the Ethnic Liaison Committee set up in 2001
Lawrence Rustem, chairman of the Ethnic Liaison Committee
Nick Griffin was able to offer the case of a "Mr.Singh", a member of the Sikh community who had contacted the BNP. Several telephone conversations between the Panorama office and Mr.Singh took place and a meeting was arranged.

He made it clear that he did not agree with a lot of BNP policies but that the BNP opposition to the threat from the Muslim community was something with which he was in agreement.

Mr. Singh said that he did not represent the Sikh community. He also said he was not prepared to be interviewed for the programme.

Panorama was also put in touch with two other Sikhs and a member of the Hindu community who had spoken to Griffin on the telephone. In the conversations that followed a famailiar pattern emerged.

All three spoke out about the threat from Muslims at home and abroad. All three admitted that they were speaking purely in a personal capacity, and all three declined to take part in the film.

The appointment of one ethnic member in the Party to chair the Committee and it's very existence would, on the face of it, look like a change of policy on the part of a party once associated with forcible repatriation and racism.

Panorama failed to find any convincing evidence to suggest that the Ethnic Liaison Committee is much more than a publicity stunt and that it is exploiting divisions between ethnic groups.

Members of the Sikh Community
Members of the Sikh Community
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